November 7, 2010 at 12:16 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Gates wants ‘Don’t Ask’ repeal in lame duck

Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Sunday expressed support for legislative repeal of  “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” during the lame duck session of Congress, but said he’s uncertain whether lawmakers would be able to complete the task.

Asked about the possibility of repeal before members of the next Congress are seated, Gates replied, “I would like to see the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ but I’m not sure what the prospects for that are. And we’ll just have to see.”

The comments, which Gates made to reporters aboard a U.S. military aircraft, mark a change in the defense secretary’s position. Previously, Gates had said waiting for the Pentagon working group report, which is due Dec. 1, would provide the best guidance on moving forward with repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

With a new Republican majority coming into power in the U.S. House and a reduced Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate, prospects for legislatively ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will be diminished when the 112th Congress begins.

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said he welcomes Gates’ call for  passage of  “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal before the end of the year. Repeal language is in the fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill, which is pending before the Senate.

“If the President, Majority leader Reid, Secretary Gates, and a handful of republican senators are committed to passing the comprehensive defense bill, there is ample time to do so,” Sarvis said.

Sarvis added that any talk of passing a “watered down” defense authorization bill with the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” provisions stripped from the legislation would unacceptable and offensive to gay, lesbian and bisexual service members.

Gates’ comments come the day after the new commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James Amos, said now isn’t the time to end the military’s gay ban. Amos assumed his position as commandant last month.

On Saturday, Amos told reporters “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal could have unique consequences for Marine Corps. The service puts two Marines in each room in the barracks to encourage a sense of unity.

“There’s risk involved; I’m trying to determine how to measure that risk,” Amos said. “This is not a social thing. This is combat effectiveness. That’s what the country pays its Marines to do.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

  • A Gallup poll in May found 70 percent of Americans favor allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly. Yes, OPENLY. Gates can – and should – fire the Marine Corps commandant for causing problems pertaining to willful insubordination. Numerous countries around the world can deal with it – Gen. James Amos CAN’T deal with it. Unfortunate for him. Not the hallmark of an effective leader in the 21st century.

  • Why on Earth did Obama and Gates choose another homophobe to be the new commandant of the Marine Corp? Obviously, he should be ignored and the Congress should press on with DADT Repeal immediately during the lame-duck session, because once the new Republicans are seated it will be impossible to move any Pro-LGBT legislation forward. In fact, at this point, the only Pro-LGBT legislation that can still be passed is the Repeal of DADT and the Domestic Partnership Benefits & Obligations Act, since the other bills have not even had committee votes yet, (And probably never will get committee votes). We must urge the Democratic leadership to call for a floor vote on DPBO in the Senate & House and a second vote on DADT repeal in the Senate.

  • Why do we continue to waste time, effort and resources on lifting DADT when ENDA should be the priority as it benefits the most of us? Only a fraction of us working for the US military. ENDA was supposed to get a vote right after the miguided priority of lifting DADT. Instead you want to waste the lame duck session revisiting this issue.

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